Phoenix could have played without any stage frippery, and the group would have still, no doubt, sent the packed crowd at Kia Theatre into a frenzy with its exuberant, synth-laced dance-pop music.
But Phoenix, as evinced by its recent Manila concert, wasn’t all about setting off resounding sing-alongs; it cared just as much about creating a mood.
With sophisticated lighting effects, smoke machines and hypnotic video imagery, each of the 18 numbers performed by the quartet, Versailles, France, morphed into a unique aural and visual experience.
In “Lovelife,” a midtempo tune sprinkled with lighthearted synth arpeggios that brought to mind old video games and sci-fi fare, the hall was drenched in warm tones of blues and reds, as the screen behind displayed a glistening sunset. In “Role Model,” a mirror backdrop that was ever so slightly tilted forward offered a nifty overhead view of the band.
“Sunskrupt!,” an alternative rock-inflected interweaving of “Bankrupt!” and “Love Like a Sunset,” had Phoenix taking the fans to an early evening motorcycle ride through the streets of Paris. And in “Lisztomania,” perhaps the most well-known song by the group, only the silhouettes of the vocalist Thomas Mars, bassist Deck d’Arcy, and guitarists LaurentBrancowitz and Christian Mazzalai could be seen amid frenetic flashing lights.
The night’s overarching theme was romance and it was expressed in many different forms: It manifested itself as jittery digital beats (“Ti Amo,” “Drakkar Noir”) and as anthemic chants (“Lasso,” “Long Distance Call”); it filled the air as spunky disco pulses of “J-Boy” and was infused into the whimsical cadence of “Fior Di Latte.”
The set was composed mostly of tracks from the band’s fourth and most successful record, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” and “Ti Amo,” the sixth and newest album that was inspired by the four men’s “fantasized version of Italy.” But for good measure they threw in a couple of older favorites, such as “If I Ever Feel Better.”
Thomas, who’s married to acclaimed movie director Sofia Coppola, may look like an unlikely frontman, but was a charismatic and an unflagging performer. Ditching the usual blue shirt for a flora Hawaiian, he danced deliriously and spun around kicking the air, all the while dragging his red-wired microphone with him.
At one point, he even dove, attempted to crowd-surf waded through mobs of giddy fans. “Salamat … for knowing all the lyrics. You’re the best singing crowd!” Thomas, who first performed in Manila in 2014, told the audience before finally ending the show—mounted by Karpos Multimedia—with the catchy “1901.”
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